It’s been a wild 24 hours; the onslaught of criticism and insults I’ve received for having the audacity to criticize David Sirota, Brie Joy Gray and their new boss Bernie Sanders has been quite the experience. Everyone who’s tasted from the cup of fame eventually regrets it; if what I’ve been treated to is a sip of prominence, I want none of it. However, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the human psyche in general from the reception the article I published last night has received.
Let me be completely forthright here, I’ve been meaning to be a lot more explicit in my condemnation of Bernie Sanders for a while. Outside of a couple of articles I’ve written in the past taking Bernie to task, I mostly kept my powder dry and refrained from rebuking him too loudly. The reason for my reticence is simple: I realized a long time ago that a large segment of the people who love and follow my work are Bernie Sanders supporters.
The ego, you see, is a most bedeviling friend. Even though my aim at the inception of the Ghion Journal was to disavow the demographic driven tactics of mainstream media, the more attention my writing received and the more bouquets were thrown at my direction, I subconsciously started caring about maintaining my status. This validation seeking never metastasized to the point where I became a shill for one particular ideology or identity, but still, it bothered me that I would hesitate for fear of losing followers.
It took an act of journalistic malpractice by David Sirota and Briahna Joy Gray that bothered me to no ends for me to throw caution to the wind and go all in to chastise the Bernie ecosystem and risk getting Bern’d. Yet, no matter how much I anticipated feeling the heat for my decision to castigate Sirota, and Sanders by extension, I vastly underestimated the degree to which I would offend the sensibilities of his followers. Reaction was swift; the minute I sent one tweet, arrows by way of mentions and comments flew in my direction like the opening credit of Gladiator.
Within 24 hours, I lost close to 200 followers on my Twitter account, a litany of people unsubscribed from the Ghion Journal mailing list and a significant percentage of our monthly contributors pulled their automatic payments. Although my heart was temporarily saddened, not because I lost out on followers or because the Ghion Journal bled monthly contributions, but because I realized that I vastly underestimated just how much America is beset by tribalism.
Which then made me pause and reflect on this thought; perhaps I should be a bit more forgiving with corporate journalists. Why should we ask them to take the courageous course and speak truth to power without hidden agendas when the end result of that decision is grief and lost paychecks? If I, a nobody in the broader context of the media landscape, hesitate from pursuing a story because I fear backlash, how much more averse would I be to speak against the establishment if I had more than 100K followers, a blue checkmark next to my name and my paychecks were tied into clicks and ratings.
If we expect news that edifies us instead of entertainment that medicates us, perhaps we should create the demand for an alternative to emerge instead of enabling the very behaviors we are collective repulsed by.
Beyond this realization that fame and fortunes are the reasons why journalism has gone to the dogs, I also learned about my own hubris. I’m the same guy who literally preaches about the need to be loving in the face of hatred and to seek forgiveness above bitterness. If only it was as easy to take in what is doled out to others. The truth is that I have a plank in my eyes as I speak about the speck in the eyes of the world. Though I’m a pretty jovial guy by default, when people try to diminish me, I see red and give back better than I receive.
It was this penchant of mine to fight fire with infernos that, in large part, landed me on skid row not too long ago. By the grace of God, I am no longer sleeping on donated mattresses and calling shelters home. Alas, this damn ego of mine that seduces me like Sirens still has a hold over my heart. Parenthetically, when you see me talking about my faith or my belief in a power greater than me, I’m not preaching to you nor am I trying to convert you to my line of thinking. I’m just trying to remind myself to subsume my ego and to find love within instead of seeking acceptance without.
Though hardship smoothed out my rough edges and humbled me a bit—there was a time I returned spitballs with howitzers—too frequently, I still revert to my mean when someone tries to shine at my expense. I hope and pray that a day will arrive where I truly return malice with kindness, but wisdom is not a destination, it is a journey that one must take daily. I will acknowledge progress and be kind to myself for the incremental steps I’ve taken towards forbearance.
To this end, let me openly apologize to the supporters of Bernie Sanders whom I collectively judged. In my quest to get even, I became just as vindictive as the people who rushed to assail my character. On more than one occasion, I called Bernie Sander’s supporters Kool-Aid drinkers and progressive Qanon zealots. It might feel good to burn people in the moment, but it does nothing to advance the goals of unity and solidarity that I often write about. I am a flawed messenger trying to do what is right; more often than not, I let my ego get in the way of progress.
— Teodrose Fikre ✒ (@TeodroseFikre) March 21, 2019
It’s not just my ego that gets in the way, it’s my guilt and the memories of what I’ve seen. It’s been less than two years since I emerged from the abyss of homelessness. Far from struggling and nowhere near the solitary depression I was once cocooned in, I am now married, have a well-paying job and have a blessing on the way who will be my greatest treasure—that news is developing as we speak. Yet for all my mirth and gratefulness, I can’t wash away the memories of the broken sea of humanity I used to once call my neighbors.
If you want to know why I disavow terms like “white privilege” and why I stopped believing in politics, it’s because I witnessed first-hand that poverty and hopelessness do not discriminate. The same way that Malcolm X had his awakening when he visited Mecca, I too had my eye opening moment in rescue missions and soup kitchens. To this day, I often think of the little “white” girl named Sam who was living among the broken during my stay at the Greenville Rescue Mission. I likewise can’t get the image of children playing in the streets in Atlanta out of my head while drugs were being sold at the gas station parking lot I used to work at.
You see the feature picture above, the picture on the left is an image that used to haunt me even when I was making six figures at Booz Allen Hamilton. I don’t know who that little girl is, I ran into that pic one day while searching for a picture of an Ethiopian child for an event I was organizing. For the longest time, my passion and determination was to make a difference for my birth land and to alleviate the suffering of Ethiopians. After enduring a stint of personal tribulation and running into Sam, the picture on the right is a reminder of the child who made me cry on a daily basis while I was a sojourner in South Carolina.
As flawed as I am, the reason I am so idealistic is because I struggle mightily when I see the least among us suffer needlessly. It doesn’t have to be this way; this world has enough resources to feed twice as many people if not for the manufactured scarcity that the neo-aristocracy impose upon humanity in order to enrich themselves. If only we put away our differences, we could bend the arc of history towards justice instead of being broken by policies and politics that are implemented by both parties and being normalized by the entirety of the media-politico complex.
Perhaps it’s survivor’s remorse or maybe it’s just who I am in my heart; after all, my grandfather five generations removed, Atse Tewodros II, fought and died while defending poor Ethiopians and giving back the lands and possessions the aristocracy stole from them. Whatever my motivation is, I disparately want justice in this world. But I have a ways to go before I gain enough wisdom to accept these words spoken by Martin Luther King in my heart as much as I understand it in my mind:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Until that day of wisdom arrives, let me take this moment to apologize to everyone whom I offended. Though I stand by the article I wrote last evening, I am nonetheless sorry that I kept shellacking people in response to the ire they threw my direction. After all, if I want to effect change in this world, I must be the most patient with the people who come at me the hardest. Hurt people hurt other people; perhaps I should tend to my own hurts so that I can be more patient with other people who are hurting too. #FeelTheBurden Click To Tweet
None are greater than the other, we all are greater when we love and help one another::
Today, instead of contributing to the Ghion Journal, I ask you to give to others who need it. I reached out to my fellow Twitter sojourners to see who I could highlight in order to galvanize our readers to contribute to someone who is down on their luck. @superwhaleshark suggested Liliana’s GoFundMe. You can read more about Liliana’s story by clicking HERE or clicking on her picture below. Give as we are given, let us help others who are less fortunate then us. Who knows, one day we could use the same kindness, I know I once did. Be the light to others.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
- Ethiopia’s Choice: Poverty through Grievance or Prosperity through Unity - September 9, 2019
- Bloody 60s: the Decade that Aborted Leadership in America - August 22, 2019
- A Matter of Life or Death: We Cannot Afford to Ignore Mental Illnesses Any Longer - August 17, 2019